• The Beauty of Handwork

    Some quilters have an aversion to handwork. They will avoid doing handwork at all costs. And while this newsletters main focus is machine quilting I'd like to talk a little about the convenience and portability of handwork.

    Many hours are spent traveling as a passenger on public transportation or in the family car, plane or train. This would be a great time to plan a hand project to work on and utilize that time that might otherwise be wasted.

    Other times available to work on a hand project would be at the doctors or dentist waiting rooms, sports games, meetings, and other time you are usually sitting without something to do with your hands. Also having a small project available near the telephone to work on when you have those long telephone calls.

    Many interesting and unique projects could be completed in these small increments of time. Choose a project that is special and would be easier to do by hand rather than by machine. Also choose a project that you don't have a deadline for finishing.

    The key is preparing project ahead of time. Have all fabric and equipment you will need for your project. Place everything in a small zip close bag to keep items from being lost.

    Items that you would want would be your pre-cut fabric pieces, a small pair of scissors, two or three needles, a half a dozen pins, marking pencil, and thread. Also include any other necessary tools for your specific project. Place everything in a small or medium zip close bag and you are ready to go.

    If your fabric patches are cut ahead of time and prepared in the way needed for your specific project you will have everything you need to make use of some of the minutes and hours that may otherwise be wasted.

    Hand Piecing -- Hand piecing can be a fulfilling and rewarding way to make some of those blocks that might be very difficult to machine piece. It could be that the pieces are very small or tricky angles or curves. So if you do choose to hand piece, choose a more difficult pattern rather than simply piecing a basic nine-patch block.

    English Paper Piecing -- English paper piecing is a very small project that is easily carried in a zip close bag. It is similar to hand piecing only a foundation paper or cardstock templates are used to facilitate piecing. Pieces are prepared by turning under the seam allowance and basting. Then they are whip stitched together.

    Foundation piecing -- Yes, you can foundation piece by hand -- using muslin as your foundation material. Muslin foundation piecing is the same as paper foundation piecing only it is accomplished by hand and the muslin is not torn away when you are finished. It makes a very nice quilt block.

    Appliqué -- Appliqué can be done by turning under the seam allowances in the traditional way using either needle turn or a freezer paper method you like. If you need a lot of different colors of thread try winding bobbins with each color. They take up less space than the full spool. Another way to appliqué is by using a light weight fusible material and cutting patches with no seam allowance. Then hand stitch the edge with a buttonhole stitch using embroidery floss.

    In any of the hand projects discussed here, be sure to plan ahead to have everything you need all in one zip close bag. That way you can accomplish a lot of work during time that you are usually away from your sewing machine.

    Pre-Washing Pre-Cut Fabric Pieces

    A few newsletters ago we discussed the new ways fabric shops and on-line stores are marketing fabric. Many of fabric kits contain small pieces such as five inch charm squares, jelly roll strips, fat quarters or other smaller pieces of fabric.

    If you tried to put any of these small pre-cut pieces in the washing machine you would have a tangled mess of strips and squares. Even using mesh bags tend to make the fabric bunch and lump in the corner of the bag and become tangled and overly wrinkled.

    Of course when you purchase new from the fabric store it has not been pre-washed to shrink or check for bleeding of dyes. Recently at a full service quilt shop the owner told me pre-washing was not necessary and hardly anyone did it any more. Personally I prefer to wash everything so I know there will be no shrinkage later or the migrating of excess dyes after the quilt is finished.

    Yet washing these pre-cut pieces would be very difficult as fraying and tangling are issues that need to be discussed.

    Charm Squares -- Wash small pieces such as charm squares or block of the month pieces very carefully. Place the charm squares and small pieces in a small basin with soap of your choice and soak for several minutes. Rinse well and place on a large thick towel to dry. When almost dry, press with a dry iron.

    Jelly Rolls or other strips -- Pin the selvage edge of the strips to a plastic hanger using plastic clothes pins or large rust proof safety pins. Simply immerse the fabric in a basin of warm water with soap of your choice and soak for several minutes. Rinse well and lift the hanger out of the basin and hang to drip dry. When almost dry, press with a dry iron.

    Fat Quarters -- Fold fat quarters in half at the selvage edge. Clip the fat quarters to a hanger with plastic clothes pins or use a skirt or pants hanger. Simply clip the fabric to the hangers and again immerse it in warm water with soap of your choice and soak for several minutes. Rinse and lift the hanger out of the basin and hang to drip dry. When almost dry, press with a dry iron.

    Any other small pieces such as long quarters can be pre-washed the same as the fat quarters. And remember if your fabric pieces get completely dry before you have time to iron them, simply spray with clean water using a clean plant mister bottle and then press with a dry iron.

    Obviously if the pre-cut pieces are washed and drip dried they are usually easier to iron and of course you will save yourself a lot of time and trouble in untangling and ironing.

    Enjoy your new project!
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